"I'll Be Home for Christmas" is a Christmas song recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby, who scored a top ten hit with the song. Originally written to honor soldiers overseas who longed to be home at Christmastime, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" has since gone on to become a Christmas standard.
The song is sung from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas during World War II, writing a letter to his family. In the message, he tells the family he will be coming home and to prepare the holiday for him, and requests snow, mistletoe, and presents on the tree. The song ends on a melancholy note, with the soldier saying, "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams". Kim Gannon claimed on at least one occasion that he was not thinking of the soldiers when he wrote the lyrics but of all people who are unable to be home for Christmas. When he pitched the song to people in the music business, they turned it down because the final line was too sad for all those separated from their loved ones in the military. When playing golf with Bing Crosby, however, Gannon sang the song for Crosby, who decided to record it. The flip side of the original recording (Decca 18570B) was "Danny Boy"
Writing and copyright
The song was written by the lyricist Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent. Buck Ram, who previously wrote a poem and song with the same title, was credited as a co-writer of the song following a lawsuit brought by Ram's publisher, Mills Music. Bing Crosby's original 1943 release of the song on Decca Records listed only Walter Kent and Kim Gannon as the songwriters on the record label. Later pressings added the name of Buck Ram to the songwriting credit.
Bing Crosby recording
On October 4, 1943, Crosby recorded the song under the title "I'll Be Home For Christmas (If Only In My Dreams)", with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra for Decca Records; it was released as a 78 rpm single, Decca 18570A, Matrix #L3203, and reissued in 1946 as Decca 23779. Within a month of release, the song charted for 11 weeks, with a peak at number three. The next year, the song reached number 19 on the charts.
The U.S. War Department also released Bing Crosby's performance of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" from the December 7, 1944, Kraft Music Hall broadcast with the Henderson Choir, J.S.T., on V-Disc, as U.S. Army V-Disc No. 441-B and U.S. Navy V-Disc No. 221B, Matrix #VP1253-D5TC206. The song from the broadcast has appeared in many Bing Crosby compilations.
The song touched the hearts of Americans, soldiers and civilians alike, in the midst of World War II, and it earned Crosby his fifth gold record. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" became the most requested song at Christmas U.S.O. shows. The GI magazine Yank said Crosby "accomplished more for military morale than anyone else of that era".
Despite the song's popularity with Americans at the front and at home, in the UK the BBC banned the song from broadcast, as the Corporation's management felt the lyrics might lower morale among British troops.
In December 1965, astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell while on Gemini 7, requested "I'll Be Home for Christmas" be played for them by the NASA ground crew.
After Gannon's death in 1974, he left royalty rights to the song to the American Heart Association, which has benefited since.
"I'll Be Home for Christmas" was recorded by Perry Como (1946), Frank Sinatra (1957), Sara Evans (Hear Something Country - Christmas 2007, 2007), Kelly Clarkson (iTunes Session (2011) and Wrapped in Red (2013)), Seth MacFarlane (Holiday for Swing (2014)), Pentatonix (A Pentatonix Christmas (2016)), and many other artists.